What is a novel coronavirus?

A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Why is it called COVID-19?

On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.

There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans.

Should I attend work if I have symptoms of coronavirus?

If you know or suspect you are infected with coronavirus, you should follow the current public health advice. If your symptoms worsen, seek medical attention. Be aware that when unwell, your judgement is likely to be clouded, so don’t simply continue to self-treat if your condition worsens.

I have a long-term health condition. What should I do?

If you have a pre-existing health condition that places you at increased risk, you should discuss working arrangements with your employer who should try to ensure that additional measures are in place to protect you.

When is a person infectious?

The infectious period may begin one to two days before symptoms appear, but people are likely most infectious during the symptomatic period, even if symptoms are mild and very non-specific. The infectious period is now estimated to last for 7-12 days in moderate cases and up to two weeks on average in severe cases.

How severe is COVID-19 infection?

Data from the World Health Organisation shows that around 20% of diagnosed COVID-19 cases are hospitalised and 3% have severe illness. Hospitalisation rates are higher for those aged 60 years and above, and for those with other underlying health conditions.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 infection?

Symptoms of COVID-19 vary in severity from having no symptoms at all (being asymptomatic) to having fever, cough, sore throat, general weakness and fatigue and muscular pain and in the most severe cases, severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis and septic shock, all of which can be fatal. Reports show that clinical deterioration can occur rapidly, often during the second week of disease.

The complete or partial loss of the sense of smell, and in some cases the loss of the sense of taste, has been reported as a symptom of a COVID-19 infection. These symptoms can, in some cases, occur with the absence of any other COVID-19 related symptoms.

Are some people more at risk than others?

People above 70 years of age and those with underlying health conditions (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer) are considered to be more at risk of developing severe symptoms. Men in these groups also appear to be at a slightly higher risk than females. Other factors, such as being from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background, or being from a poorer area have also been shown to raise the risk of developing more severe symptoms.

Why do some people have to isolate for 14 days and others for just 7 days?

If someone is told they have been in contact with a person who has coronavirus, then they must stay at home (self-isolate) for 14 days, this is because it can take 14 days for symptoms to appear. Only when symptoms have started or when there has been a positive COVID-19 test result does someone have to isolate for 7 days. Government guidance is available on the following link:

How can I avoid getting infected?

There are many things that can be done to reduce the risk of getting infected with COVID-19. These include:

  1. trying to stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone you do not live with (or anyone not in your support bubble)
  2. wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  3. use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  4. wash your hands as soon as you get home
  5. cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  6. put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterward
  7. not touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  8. keeping up to date and following all government guidance.

There is ongoing debate regarding the wearing of face masks to prevent being infected. The main benefit of face masks is believed to be a reduction in likelihood of a carrier infecting others.

How can I avoid infecting others?

The guidance in the previous question will also ensure you do not infect others. It is also important to self-isolate if you feel unwell and to get a test. Follow all instructions from your health provider and the contact tracing service. The following link provides more detailed advice:

Personal Protective Equipment

I normally use PPE to control a process risk in my workplace. What can I do if I cannot get hold of my normal supply?

If you are unable to purchase PPE for a specific work activity, then you may be able to find an alternative supplier or consider how the activity can be changed so that it can take place safely in line with government guidance. A new risk assessment should be undertaken. Unfortunately, if PPE has been identified within the existing risk assessment as a necessary control measure and alternative measures cannot be found, then the activity will have to cease.

Should I use PPE or ask others I work with to use it to manage the risk of coronavirus?

In most circumstances’ workplace PPE is not required where there is adequate social distancing and other mitigating controls in place. However, your workplace risk assessment may identify that PPE is required in certain contexts, for example where a person has to be in close proximity with customer for an extended period of time; for example, a hairdresser.

PPE, comprising of gloves and disposable apron, will be required if enhanced cleaning an area where a confirmed carrier of COVID-19 has known to been.

When should a face covering be worn?

As the rules for face coverings are changing often please check these links directly;

Northern Ireland



Social Distancing

Do my employees need to physically distance in staff accommodation?

Where possible, employees should only provide single occupancy accommodation for workers. Where this is not possible, occupancy in each shared space should be as low as possible, and restricted to the same groups, preferably those who also work together. Consideration will also need to be given to measures for maintaining physical distancing in communal spaces such as kitchens and living areas in the accommodation. Employers will need to take steps to ensure all occupants understand the risks of COVID-19 and the measures needed to prevent the spread of the virus.

Physical distancing and hygiene measures should be reinforced through training and the display of posters throughout the accommodation.

Employees will also need to make arrangements which enable symptomatic workers to self-isolate within the accommodation. This will require provision of single occupancy accommodation which workers can be moved into as soon as they report symptoms.

We need to use a passenger lift, but can’t socially distance, what do we do?

Identify times of the day when the lift will be in frequent use – e.g. start/end of day and at break times. Consider rearranging working patterns, reducing the number of people on site and other measures such as staggering start/finish/break times to reduce the numbers needing to use a lift at any one time. This should also reduce queues for lifts where people may congregate. People who are fit enough to walk upstairs should be encouraged to do so.

When people use lifts, they should face the sides of the lift car with their backs towards other passengers. Mark spaces on lift floors using tape to help people keep their distance from other passengers and to remind them to face away from people in the lift. You may also need to reduce safe lift capacities to do this. Ensure regular cleaning and sanitation of lift controls and the passenger car and consider placing hand sanitiser near lift controls/push buttons with signs encouraging people to use it.

In Scotland, the use of the lift should be restricted to essential persons only and only one person at a time to use. ll require provision of single occupancy accommodation which workers can be moved into as soon as they report symptoms.

How many customers can I allow into my premises?

This will depend on the size of your premise and must be risk assessed. You must allow for 2 metre social distancing or 1 metre with risk mitigation.

Can groups of more than 6 people go swimming?
Can we travel to site in one vehicle?

Where insurance allows, use individual vehicles. If workers have no option but to travel together you should ensure journeys are with the same individuals, maintain good ventilation with passengers facing away from one another to reduce the risk of transmission. Vehicles should be frequently cleaned with an emphasis on handles and other high-touch surfaces. Ensure hands are washed on arrival and social distancing is maintained when entering the home.


What are the minimum requirements for cleaning hands?

Washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds is the best way to clean hands. Regular hand washing for 20 seconds and/or sanitising is the main way to clean any potential contamination from your hands and dry them with paper towels or hand dryers. If soap and water isn’t available, then alcohol hand sanitiser is recommended.

Face Coverings

Do I need to wear a face mask?

If you normally use a face mask for work to stop you being exposed to work hazards such as wood dust then you should carry on using this as before. If you are doing a home visit for one of the small number of roles that requires PPE to protect from coronavirus then you should wear a mask. If you are not in one of the small number of roles that needs PPE for the risks of coronavirus and don’t need masks for workplace hazards then you do not need to wear a face mask.

How should I support workers who have chosen to wear a face covering?

Face coverings are not classed as PPE. Face coverings are not manufactured to a standard and don’t provide a proven level of protection for work risks such as dust and spray in an industrial context. Wearing a face covering is optional and not required in the workplace. Face coverings are not proven as an effective way to manage the risks from coronavirus and you should not rely on them solely. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected and have not developed symptoms.

Social distancing, including minimising time spent in contact, using fixed teams and partnering for close-up work and increasing hand and surface washing are shown to manage the risks. You can find specific guidance on working safely here. If people choose to wear face coverings in their work then you should support them to use them safely.

Test and Trace

Do I need to collect information about my staff and customers for Test and Trace?

The following information should be collected by the venue where possible

  • The names of staff who work at the premises, a contact phone number and dates and times that staff are at work
  • The name of the customer or visitor. If there is more than one person then you can record the name of the ‘lead member’ of the group and number of people in the group
  • A contact phone number for each customer or the lead member of the group
  • Date of visit, arrival time and, if possible, departure time

Please note that this is voluntary but should be encouraged to support NHS Test and Trace or similar in the devolved nations. The records should be held for 21 days and then securely disposed of, or deleted.

Is it the guest who contacts the business if they have COVID-19 or NHS Test and Trace?

Guests or employees will be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service if they test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). They will be asked where they have been recently and who they have been in close contact with. This will help the NHS contact anyone who may have caught the virus from them. Therefore, it will be the NHS Test and Trace service who contact you in regards a guest or team member.

What action should I take if contacted by Track and Trace?

Please refer to Shield Safety Group guidance ‘Test and Trace’.

Remote Working

Do you have any support for employees working remotely?

You should

  • Keep remote and on-site employees connected
  • Send updates to employees when the situation changes
  • Consider the mental health impact of working remotely
  • Provide the right equipment for people to work from home


I think the air conditioning at work is a risk to my health – should my employer do something about it?

General government guidance is to provide good ventilation in workplaces to reduce the risks from coronavirus. The risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus is extremely low. If you are using a fully mechanical centralised air conditioning system that removes and circulates air into multiple rooms then it is best practice to avoid recirculation of air where possible. All of these types of systems should have the facility to turn off recirculation and use a fresh air supply. If you are using an air conditioning system in individual rooms or a portable unit, these operate on recirculation and should be allowed to operate. Most air conditioning systems do not need adjustment, however where systems serve multiple buildings, or you are unsure, advice should be sought from your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers or advisers. Good ventilation, including using air conditioning, is encouraged to reduce the likelihood of the spread of the virus.

Health and Safety Considerations

Are there new legal obligations arising for employers?

Employer and employee duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 remain the same in relation to managing risks in work, such as coronavirus. The government guidance at: sets out what to consider when putting in place measures to protect your employees.

We have a fire drill due, which will cause some crowding on escape routes. Am I allowed to postpone?

Fire drills are a part of your company’s general fire precaution plan and are one of the ways you can ensure that you have all the correct procedures in place should a fire break out. The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) have published guidance to help you manage the fire risks in your business:

If there’s a chance an employee contracted coronavirus through work, do we need to complete a RIDDOR report?

There are occasions when you may need to report if an employee has contracted coronavirus through their work. Please see the guidance available on the HSE website about RIDDOR reporting in relation to the coronavirus outbreak.

Do I need to review how First Aid is administered?

In regards first aid, please point your first aiders/responders to This guidance considers the risk of transmission when administering CPR.

When administering first aid, it is unlikely that the 2-metre social distancing can be maintained. Where possible, ask the injured person to administer their own first aid, following instruction from the first aider. If this is not possible, then try to avoid face to face contact. Consider the need for increased PPE within the first aid kit, to include disposable apron and face covering.

The first aider is to thoroughly wash their hand after administering first aid.

It is also suggested you review the provision of first aid in the workplace. With reduced teams, it is quite possible the number of available first aiders have reduced. Consider training other team members on first aid and consult with other businesses in the area to see if first aid provision can be shared.

Do I need to do anything with regards Fire Risk Assessment?

You will need to review and, if necessary, update the content of your Fire Risk Assessment to reflect any changes in layout or occupancy of the building.

Do I need to do anything different with regards Manual Handling

Review manual handling practices to take into account COVID-19 controls. If possible, avoid the task and see if other approaches can be used, for example rather than moving a piece of equipment to clean behind it, can a wet and dry hoover be used? If the task cannot be avoided and a two-person lift is needed, plan the task to reduce face to face positioning and reduce the time people are in close contact. This does not mean rushing the lift or carry, but planning it effectively.

If regular manual handling tasks are anticipated, then team should work in bubbles.


How many customers are allowed outside under Welsh Legislation?

1 household to socially distance from another household

Do you have any guidelines we can use for a suspected COVID-19 infected guest who may have visited the premises?
Can you please share any documentation/guidelines to support with re-opening and COVID-19? In particular we need a Risk Assessment template and any best practice guidelines you have created.
Should we be keeping all cutlery and condiments behind the counter and handing them to customers on request?

There is no legal requirement that you should keep cutlery and condiments behind the counter and handing them to customers. However, best practice and recommended control from the government is to keep as many items off the table as possible and reduce hand contact points.

It is a legal requirement for you to have a COVID-19 risk assessment and this should detail how the risk from items such as condiments, cutlery and menus are managed. The main control measure would be to have a hand sanitiser (minimum alcohol content 60%) on the entrance to the premises and signage displayed requesting customers collecting drinks/food to use it. This would ensure all customers touching surfaces and equipment have sanitised hands. If takeaway, another control measure to consider would be to put all food/drinks/cutlery/condiments in a takeaway bag and pass to customer.

Does the Safe to Trade include COVID-19 return to work forms and a plan template to ensure the colleagues can undertake tasks safely?

Safe to Trade does include a return to work questionnaire and there is a model risk assessment be used. When considering employees returning to work, the following points should be included -

  • Is a phased return to work needed? This maybe because of personal circumstances or recognising that colleague's stamina has reduced.
  • Are they aware of the requirements from risk assessments? The findings from both COVID specific and general risk assessments that have been updated to recognise the risk from COVID must be communicated.
  • The need for refresher training on skills, such as knife safety and manual handling identified.
  • Document and discuss any concerns brought up by the employee.

Do we have a risk assessment for a clinically vulnerable person returning to work?

We have not created a specific risk assessment for a clinically vulnerable person, but the following points should be covered when completing one -

  • Observe strict social distancing- maintain 2 metre distance from others in the work place. Floor markings are in place identifying 2 metre space, and must be observed by the employee and colleagues.
  • Restrict the number of guests and colleagues allowed inside the work-place to enable this. Limit interaction with guests- complete predominately duties which are not customer-facing.
  • Protective screens are installed across counters providing a barrier between employee and guests and reducing the risk of person to person transmission.

Can I have live entertainment at my venue?

The government guidance is that: ‘Venues should not permit indoor performances, including drama, comedy and music, to take place in front of a live audience. This is important to mitigate the risks of droplets and aerosol transmission-from either the performer(s) or their audience’.

Do we have to take temperatures of customers, employees or other visitors?

There is no requirement to take temperatures of customers, employees or other visitors. It is believed that there is a high incident of asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, meaning that taking temperatures is not an effective method of preventing people carrying the virus from entering the premises. Further, persons may have elevated temperature due to the weather or physical exertion, this means that false positives could occur and persons excluded from the premises without there being a risk.

What are the main differences between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?

Cafes, Pubs and Restaurants


Open from 4th July, indoor hospitality limited to table service only.


Indoor hospitality opened on 15th July.


Outdoor areas open from 13th July. Indoor hospitality from 3rd August.

Northern Ireland

Open from 3rd July - Alcohol may be sold with food indoors.

Use of face coverings


Advised where social distancing not possible.

Compulsory on public transport from 15th June and in shops and supermarkets from 24th July (Takeaway food applicable).


Advised where social distancing not possible.

Compulsory on public transport from 22nd June.

Compulsory in shops from 10th July.


Advised where social distancing not possible.

Northern Ireland

Advised where social distancing not possible.

Compulsory on public transport from 10th July.

Minimum social distancing


Government guidance is that people should remain 2m apart from each other where possible, including in workplaces.

Where this is not possible, people must remain 1m apart and take precautions to limit transmission.


Government guidance is that people must remain 2m apart from each other, including in the workplace.

Children under 12 do not have to social distance outdoors.


Government guidance is that people must remain 2m apart from each other. By law employers must take all reasonable measures to ensure a 2m distance.

Northern Ireland

From 29th June, people should remain 1m part (the guidance was previously set at 2m).

Meeting friends and family indoors


From 4th July, two households can meet indoors with social distancing, no maximum number of people. Gatherings of over 30 people are restricted by law.


From 10th July three households, up to a maximum of eight people, can meet indoors, including overnight stays.


From 6th July, two households can join together to form one extended household. No specifics currently for hospitality.

Northern Ireland

From 24th July up to 10 people from four different households can meet indoors.

From 13th June people who live alone can for a ‘small support unit’ with one other household and meet indoors without social distancing.